Gareth Southgate’s young lions will carry the hopes of the nation on their shoulders on Sunday in our biggest match since 1966.
England are in touching distance of lifting the Euro 2020 trophy and if they can conquer a formidable Italy in the final at Wembley it will spark frenzy among the thousands of fans in the stadium and up and down the land.
Many have not yet stopped celebrating Wednesday’s semi-final victory over Denmark and the party is expected to go long into the night and beyond should Harry Kane and co secure a famous win.
Landlords are gearing up for a bumper day of booze sales as millions of supporters are planning to flock to pubs, bars and fanzones for the most eagerly awaited clash in decades.
Shops are braced for a mad rush as families watching the nail-biter at home stock up on burgers and crisps.
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Many schools are allowing pupils to come in late on Monday as they will be staying up to watch the match and bosses have been warned to expect a mass sickie as revellers struggle to get to work after a night of partying if the result goes our way.
Calls continued to grow for an extra bank holiday to toast any victory.
Southgate issued a rallying cry to the players last night and defender John Stones urged fans to shout loud and proud in support of the team’s quest to make Euro history.
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The manager said the players “have a choice of what colour medal” they pick up after the match. Man City star Stones added: “We all love the England team, growing up as fans, being able to play for them now, we absolutely cherish it.”
And to those supporters lucky enough to get a ticket, he pleaded: “Turn up and make a lot of noise for us.”
Not that they will need much encouragement judging by the jubilant scenes throughout the tournament so far.
Fan Tony Stopford, who was 12 when he saw England beat West Germany 4-2 at Wembley in 1966, will be working in the hospitality section of the stadium tomorrow. Recalling that day, the 66-year-old said: “It was phenomenal.”
It has emerged the players want to donate any win bonuses – potentially £9.5million – to NHS charities.
The largest TV audience of any event in history, 32.3 million, is expected to watch the final, which kicks off at 8pm. Many of them will be excited kids.
Rossmere Primary School in Hartlepool told parents children can lie in on Monday. It wrote: “If your child is likely to be staying up until after 11pm on Sunday to watch the final, then let them stay in bed a bit longer and get to school by 10.30am.
“We would rather have children rested and ready to learn than grumpy.” Pupils at Seaview Primary in Seaham, Co Durham, can also come in late.
One thrilled parent said: “This has made my day in fact I think it’s made every parent’s day.” Asda has launched “Operation It’s Coming Home” to make sure shelves are restocked quickly.
It ramped up supplies, expecting 200,000 burgers, 500,000 curries, a million pizzas and 45 million packs of beer to fly off shelves.
But police have warned fans across England they must “celebrate responsibly” or face arrest. It follows wild scenes in the centre of London on Wednesday when supporters climbed on top of a double decker bus.
The Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “We’ve got a large policing plan in place, with a very experienced command team across London.”
Research by the Centre for Retail Research and VoucherCodes.co.uk found £206million will be spent on England souvenirs with demand for shirts rocketing by 270%.
Men’s fashion store TM Lewin has renamed its knitted polka dot tie “The Southgate” after sales increased by 250% since the manager has worn his “lucky” one for games.
Thousands of fans have signed a petition calling for a bank holiday to toast an England victory.
And Keir Starmer has backed the pleas. The Labour leader said: “The country should get the chance to celebrate it properly with an extra bank holiday, granted in the name of the England team.”
There is to be a “national day of celebration” later in the summer.
Prince William will again be among the 65,000 fans at Wembley.
If England win there will be an open top bus tour but not before July 19 at the earliest due to Covid restrictions.
‘We can have a positive influence on the world’
– by Andy Dunn
Gareth Southgate has issued a rallying cry to the nation before tomorrow’s crucial clash.
The England manager has urged the people to fly the flag with pride ahead of our Wembley showdown with Italy, outlining exactly how much it means to him.
He said: “We always look at the negatives of our country yet we have much to be proud of. There are historic things that we should be proud of. We’ve had unbelievable inventions in this country, and standards of decency.
“People have tried to invade us and we’ve had the courage to hold that back.
“You can’t hide that some of the energy in the stadium against Germany was because of that. I never mentioned that to the players but I know that’s part of what that story was.
“There is an intertwining of all those things, that generations of… respect for our elders and values I think we should have.”
And while winning a major trophy for the first time since 1966 is the be-all and end-all for Southgate on Sunday, he is happy that he has taken on wider challenges as England boss.
He added: “The way I try to lead is to be authentic to myself as I recognise the position I’m in and the influence I can have in a positive way.
“I go back to the values my parents gave me and treating people as you would want to be treated, respectfully.
“The generations to come are the ones we’ve got to invest in because, for an island our size, we’ve got an incredible influence on the world and we’ve got to keep that in a positive way.
“I talked to the players about the legacy bits they have achieved … but now they have a choice of what colour medal.
“And that is what it is all about because it won’t be enough for me and for the rest of the staff and for the players if we don’t win it now.”